'Law & Order: SVU' Taps 'E.T.' Star for 'Making a Murderer'-Inspired Episode (Exclusive)

henry thomas and kelli williams_Split - Getty - H 2016
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henry thomas and kelli williams_Split - Getty - H 2016

Season 18 of Law & Order: SVU is starting to take shape.

The long-running drama has tapped E.T. star Henry Thomas and The Practice alum Kelli Williams to guest-star in an episode seemingly inspired by Making a Murderer, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Thomas will portray a convicted rapist recently exonerated due to newly tested DNA evidence after 16 years in prison. But his freedom doesn’t last very long - Fin (Ice T), the arresting officer all those years ago, must investigate the man once again when he’s implicated in a deadly crime. Williams will play Melanie, the rape victim who identified him as her attacker.

The episode will air sometime in the fall.

Thomas' character draws comparisons to Steven Avery, the man at the center of Making a Murderer. He spent 18 years behind bars for rape and attempted murder before he was exonerated, but was arrested again two years later and convicted for the death of a photographer. Released in December, the 10-episode docuseries became a smash for Netflix and recently nabbed six Emmy nominations.

The new attention brought to Avery's case and has led to a new series of appeals filed in January. Netflix recently ordered new installments of the series to follow the changes in the case.

This is not the first time Law & Order: SVU has looked to the true crime genre for inspiration. The season 17 premiere centered on a character similar to Robert Durst, the focus of the HBO docuseries The Jinx. Much like Durst, the SVU episode centered a wealthy New Yorker suspected of multiple murders despite the lack of physical evidence tying him to the crimes.

The upcoming 18th season of Law & Order: SVU marks the first with new showrunner Rick Eid (Law & Order) at the helm. Eid succeeds Warren Leight, who departed for an overall deal at Sony Television.

Best known for his starring role in the Steven Spielberg blockbuster, Thomas' recent credits include History's Sons of Liberty, Betrayal and Dear John. He is repped by Gersh, Brillstein Entertainment Partners and Bloom Hergott.

Following The Practice's eight-season run, Williams has gone on to star in Lie to Me, Army Wives and most recently recurred on The Fosters. She is repped by ICM and John Carrabino Management.

Law & Order: SVU returns on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. on NBC.